Another week has come and gone under the Gold Dome in Atlanta. While the Senate did not convene for any legislative days, this week was still one of the most important we will have all year.
This week, known as “budget week”, members of the legislature had the opportunity to hear in-depth presentations from Georgia’s state agencies and consider their funding needs for the upcoming fiscal year. This year, General Assembly is tasked with crafting two budgets: the Amended Budget for the 2020 Fiscal Year and the General Budget for the 2021 Fiscal Year. This week we took our first steps in gathering the information we need to carefully and responsibly set a budget.
Over the course of this last week, the Senate and House Appropriations Committees convened for joint budget hearings. As the Secretary of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I take our duty to be good stewards of your tax dollars seriously. During these hearings, we heard from representatives and department heads from many of our state agencies.
While the Governor has prescribed budget cuts of 4% for the Amended Fiscal Year 2020 budget and 6% for the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, we have been assured that these cuts will not limit access to any of our state’s vital services or programs. The focus of these cuts is to consolidate existing state programs and improve cooperation between agencies. This collaboration can be seen in initiatives such as the transfer of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Historic Preservation Program to the Department of Community Affairs, resulting in savings upward of $350,000. This purely organizational change is saving taxpayers’ money without impacting the service provided by the state.
Another highlight from the hearings was a presentation from Governor Brian Kemp, where he went into greater detail on the budgetary effects of a few of his planned initiatives. One such effort was a $2,000 raise for all Georgia educators, who work so hard to teach Georgia’s outstanding youth. Gov. Kemp also spoke about public safety improvements funded under his proposed budget, including $885,000 to expand the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s (GBI) Gang Task Force to further combat the impact of gangs in Georgia, as well as additional funding intended to put a stop to sex trafficking in our state. In addition, his budget dedicated over $13.1 million for new Georgia State Patrol (GSP) vehicles, which will give our state officers the most advanced resources as they keep Georgia safe.
Over the next few weeks, we plan on taking the information we learned from the budget hearings, along with the Governor’s recommendations, and tailoring a budget that best benefits all of Georgia.
Next week will be a long one, as the Senate convenes as a whole for days five through nine. In addition, we will be holding numerous committee meetings where we will be carefully considering and passing legislation. This is crucial to the legislative process to ensure that only the best possible legislation reaches the Senate Floor.
Throughout the busy week and the rest of the legislative session, I intend to continue to represent the best interests of my constituents in District 51 and across the entire state. I am excited to continue my service to the great state of Georgia. Please feel free to reach out with questions, comments, or suggestions on what is happening under the Gold Dome – my office and I are always happy to help.
Sen. Steve Gooch serves as the Senate Majority Whip. He represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties, and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at email@example.com.